Tuesday, August 9, 2016

July21 ...in the kingdom of the animals!


 Today is the first all day safari drive in the Serengeti. What that means is that we will leave our camp site after breakfast and drive the dirt roads all day looking for wild animals to photograph. We will stop when and where we find them, for as long as it takes for the camera's appetite to be sated and then move on. Our drivers are also our guides and they are trained to track and spot game. Both Phillip and Edwin have an uncanny ability to locate interesting big-game animals. 
The photography part of the tour is now very interesting. In one car Fern is coaching, modelling an calling out the shots that Gabi, Dad and I should be taking and in the other Ali is doing the same for Susan, Pat and Rick. Technical words and settings get thrown around in the heat of battle as a scene changes before us with the scattering of monkeys or the running of a herd of zebras or the angry stomping of an adversarial buffalo. Every now and then Fern yells "I-Phone shot" to let us know that even though we may think we have a great picture, something about it is wrong... either the light is too harsh or the distance to great or the background too busy...rending it an i-phone pic for the family and not the target of a pro-photographer. 
By nightfall we arrive at our northern Serengeti campsite called Bologonya...and yes we are "under canvas" for three nights here! The food is incredible...I wonder aloud why the Marriots of the world don't steal these cooks in the bush. Chicken stew, soup, salad and dessert all are served and consumed. The long dining table seats our entire group and our guides and this coming together at the end of our long day of driving and photography is a welcome conclusion.  

This morning we awoke to a family of African elephants lazily making their way past our encampment. There were elephants of all sizes and provided for a great early photo-opp. After this night at a Katikati camp in the central Tanzanian Serengeti we set out on a game drive north that would lead us to our camp for the next 3 days. This is to be our basecamp for full scale attempts to see 'river crossings’. River crossings are those elusive events for the filming and publicizing of which National Geographic is famous. They refer to the crossing of the Mara river in Kenya and Tanzania by the massive migrating herds of the Serengeti plains including antelope, wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, gazelles, elephants and many more. The reason why this is riveting drama is because all known predators of these herds lie in wait on the shores of the river to exact their price. These include carnivores such as crocodiles, lions, leopards and cheetas. The migrating herds contain young yearlings born in the last few months and vulnerable to the river current and the poaching predators. These travelers find strength in numbers and therefore assemble until their collective confidence allows them to make a run for it. On the other hand the ploy of the stalkers it to find the vulnerable and weaker animals in the herd and separate them before attacking. It the cycle of life and survival played out in all its raw reality right there on a river bank. We have come to Africa in the hope that we will witness a crossing. 
Dinner was wonderful and perhaps the best of this trip. The more permanent game lodges should take a page out of the culinary handbook of these temporary camps. The menu was rice, chicken stew, fried potatoes, avocado salad, pumpkin soup, lentil and okra with cake for dessert.  
After dinner we were walked to each of our tents because one is not allowed to walk in the camp unaccompanied by staff. The camp is located near a picturesque water hole that is visited by buffalo, hippos and lions. 


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